Christians and Their Worship

Posted on November 3, 2007. Filed under: Spiritual Musings |

This was a “homework” assignment given to Mark Johnson on Christian Worship.  Mark is a lot smarter and wiser than he gives himself credit for and, therefore, this makes him a humble intellect.  Since Mark doesn’t have a blog of his own, I figured I’d publish it for him (I wouldn’t do it if I thought it was crap.)  Thank you Mark.

“When worshipers, by the power of the Spirit, participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully in the liturgy, the individual person, the church, and the liturgy are joined together in synergistic ritual…each agent is mutually enriched: personal faith responses are confirmed in substance, upheld in solidarity, deepened in perception and poised for action in the world.” Craig Douglas Erickson PARTICIPATING IN WORSHIP

Although we are more than just sinners, we live in a fallen state because sin separates us from God. However, God continually looks to draw us back into fellowship with Him. From the beginning, the moment sin entered the world, God walked the garden seeking out Adam and Eve. Throughout the Old Testament, we see God continually seeking us out to restore that relationship. This is realized more completely in the New Testament through Jesus Christ who, in life, shows us the very character of God. In the climax, sin crucifies love in the form of a cross, but in the resurrection, sin is conquered and restoration is available.

The purpose of worship is man’s response to what God has done, is doing and will do for us. When we worship corporately, the same intent is there, however, the response is done as a community. The Bible does not have a structure on how a worship service should be done. For that reason, each denomination or church has a different methodology on how a worship service takes place. Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. all have different forms on how they choose to worship. What’s interesting is that you will find churches from each denomination (and churches with no affiliation with a denomination) using their different methodologies coming into a place of true worship. “True worship” meaning that place where the spirit of man touches the Spirit of God.

Sadly, those same denominations have just as many, if not more, churches that use the same rituals, that are utterly lifeless. To step into a worship service like that is like walking into a cemetery. Songs, words and sermons all fall flat and you find yourself checking your watch continually.

It is not surprising that God is not bound or impressed by methodology. God is seeking the heart of man.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)

As I mentioned earlier, the Bible does not have a structure on how worship should be performed, however, it does show us many forms that can assist in bringing us into worship.
Song is one such ritual. Forty one of the Psalms call for us to “sing to the Lord.” Not only does song praise Him, it also brings us together as a community. Singing can assist in bringing emotion into the act of worship. Emotion and feeling are necessary to our lives and they are a gift from God. Those who only wish to bring their minds into worship are those you see sitting in the pews with stony, dour looks on their faces. You sometimes wonder if they are even alive.

“But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab 2:20)

Another form of worship, that many churches ignore…quite the opposite of singing, is silence. It can, amongst other things, quiet the mind and cause the worshiper to hear that still, small voice.

Obviously, corporate prayer is another way to bring the worshiper into a place where true worship can take place.
Audience participation is also necessary. To hear where God has been active in someone’s life can be a very powerful way for the Body of Christ to see the reality of God. Hearing the joys and concerns of those in the church brings people together as a community and brings man into a deeper sense of love toward one another.

Of course, a sermon from the spiritual leader (pastor, priest, whatever) is also important. A powerful sermon helps guide worship and touches the hearts of the Body. It is the sermon that should go beyond the service and into a person’s daily lives, something that can be carried with them on their spiritual journey.

Also, of course, there is the reading of scripture, usually used as part of the sermon. This is a must.

Another must is Communion. I’m a bit leery of doing it on a weekly (let alone daily) basis, however. I feel Communion should be done about once a month. Communion is a sacrament that should not become a routine.

We are to worship with body and spirit. The Hebrew meaning of the word “worship” is “to prostrate.” The word “bless” means to kneel. Scripture is loaded with physical actions when applied to worship. Scripture calls us to lie prostrate, stand, kneel, lift hands, clap, lift the head, bow the head, dance, etc. (I come from an area where we are generally referred to as the “frozen chosen.” If you see me tapping my feet during worship service, you’ve seen a big deal).

But I digress.

I’ve gone nowhere in explaining how I would actually design a worship service. In the end, I don’t think I can. Forms cannot bring the body into a true sense of worship any more than the lack of forms can. Scripture has shown us various ways in which true worship can be reached; the end result should involve change in the individual. It is not possible for our spirit to be touched by God without the experience changing us in some way. If I were to design a service, I would use the methods I’ve described (just like all churches do), but I doubt I’d use all of them with each service. Maybe I’d start with prayer, then go into song. From there, open up the service to the congregation for testimony or where God has been working in the lives of the people. Then offer up joys and concerns of the congregation. More singing. A sermon. More singing, then close. Communion would be in there at times. Silence, maybe ten minutes worth, would also be thrown in some days. Other days there would just be song with nothing else. Other times maybe just a sermon.

Although, more than likely, I’d find myself out of a job after the first week.


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One Response to “Christians and Their Worship”

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Howdy Rob,

Being a good friend of Mark Johnson, I am aware of his faith and appreciative of his views on religion. When he told me that he had written this piece on worship, I was eager to read what he had to say. While Mark would never claim to be a writer in the traditional sense, I beg to differ. This is one of the most uplifting and insightful essays on worship and its various structures that I’ve ever read. I agree wholeheartedly on everything he said; he is right on the mark, in my opinion.

Thank you for giving Mark the opportunity to share this with others. Although many would deny it, I believe that the structure of a worship service, whether it be Catholic, Baptist, or Penecostal, is ultimately all about praising God and our savior Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many times, a worship service tends to focus on the members of a particular church, rather than the One whose holy magnificence that church was based upon.

Again, thank you for including this on your blog.


Ron Kelly

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